Fake it until you make it.

With a new provincial government in transition and ready to take power, your Board of Trustees and Administration made an interesting decision. Administration had prepared a budget based on the budget that was announced by the previous government, with a reduced allotment for education funding. After the election, we know that budget is out the window. So what should the school board do now? The law states that school board budgets must be presented to the Minister of Education by May 31st. Administrators need to present a budget to Trustees on May 12th in order to reach this deadline.

A change in government hasn’t happened in Alberta in 44 years, so there is no “best practice” or experience on how to revise the budget. Although many school boards in other provinces have dealt with this, the ministry of education likely has an opinion and the new MLAs could offer an insight on how the school boards could most realistically revise their budget, none of these measures appear to have been discussed. In fact, the CBE administration appears to have decided to just make it up as they go.

The numbers contained in this “interim” budget are just made up. It would not be reasonable to budget as though no additional money were forthcoming. That would mean making unnecessary layoffs, just to rehire later. But there is no guarantee that the numbers promised by the new government during the campaign will be fully implemented in the short term. It would seem reasonable to assume 1/6th of the money promised in the NDP platform budget, given that CBE students represent 1/6th of the student population (approximately $20 million, although administrators were using the proportion of 1/5th). But, instead, as one administrator pointed out, the CBE will assume that the revenue would be all that we need to fully fund student enrolment growth (approximately $40 million).

Then, around noon hour on May 12th as the public board meeting was starting where this budget was discussed, the Premier-elect announced she was asking Alberta Education to extend the deadline by one month. The chair of the board read this statement from Premier-elect Notley at the meeting, some 90 minutes after the public announcement. Great news right? We don’t have to present and debate this fictitious budget, right? We can table it until we get some real numbers, right? Not so fast.

The board asked questions of administration about this pretend budget for close to 2 hours. The budget also appears on the agenda for voting at the next board meeting on May 19th. So while the new Government has given time for boards to revise and create a realistic budget, based on actual revenue from the new government, the Calgary Board of Education is rushing forward, in an unknown direction. They may be fortunate and not have to adjust this pretend budget, but there is no guarantee whatsoever that this budget will offer the school board all the money they want. The only reasonable route would be for trustees to take time to clarify the amount of revenue that the new government will offer and direct administration to create a realistic budget around that. So Trustees, what are you voting on?

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